Evergreen Solar stays in Midland

Although Evergreen Solar just announced the closing of a production facility in Massachusetts, company officials say their Midland plant is in no danger.

Rather, the closure is part of a switch in the company's market role, moving from fabrication of solar panels to supplying their proprietary silicon wafers to other solar manufacturers who can do it at a lower cost, mostly in China.

Michael McCarthy is the director of investor relations and government affairs for Evergreen Solar, and says the move will not only reshape the company's role in the solar industry, but in the long run, contribute to a more viable, lower-cost solar industry worldwide.

"As a small panel supplier, Evergreen was subjected to great volatility and the very end of the market. Now as a wafer supplier, which offers better margin opportunities at both the gross and operating levels, Evergreen plays a leading role--by virtue of its low cost wafer--in enabling these panel manufacturers to further bring down their costs of production," he says.

Evergreen Solar, Inc. opened the doors of its Midland plant on Schuette Road in 2008, which makes high-temperature filaments used in making the wafers. The young solar startup has been lauded as part of the Bay region's future in solar energy.

The facility to be closed is in Devens, Mass., where Evergreen has been making silicon wafers. It is scheduled to be shut down by the end of the first quarter of 2011.

"The reason for the closure is more strategic than simply getting the company to the point of profitability. It is about focusing on a unique technology which enables solar panels to be made at a lower cost point," says McCarthy.

As for the Midland plant, no changes are planned, and McCarthy says the product it makes is going to be vital in Evergreen's new focus.

"The site will continue to produce the 'string' Evergreen needs to produce wafers. To the extent that the business of producing wafers grows as expected, it is not unreasonable to assume that the Midland operations and our employees there will share in that growth," he says. "Our Midland facility is located close to Dow, which provides essential materials needed for the production of the 'string' made in Evergreen's facility there."

Writer: Sam Eggleston
Source: Michael McCarthy, Evergreen Solar, Inc.

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